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REVIEW:  Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller

REVIEW: Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller

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At a memorial service meant to honor the dead and mark the beginning of a truce between Skirfall and Morcia, Ackley spies a figure who does not belong—a mage interrogator whose presence will only cause harm should the Morcians realize who he is and all the people he has tortured. But the problem rapidly grows much worse than that when Ackley realizes his true purpose is assassination of the Morcian crown prince—an assassination Ackley prevents, but at great cost.
Banished from his own country, bound magically to the crown prince of his enemies, Ackley is certain of just one thing: whether he can figure out how to break the spell or not, his death is assured.

Review:

Dear Ms. Miller,

I bought your book despite the high price because I am always on the lookout for a book which deals with “from enemies to lovers” theme and while I had previously only read a couple of freebies by you, I decided that the blurb of this story sounded too good to pass up. I wrote a brief review on Amazon, but then I decided that I want to talk about this book in more detail, so here I am. I thought the first part of the book was fascinating – it moved with speed and the plot twisted and turned. I was intrigued when one of the characters was a loud-mouth who did a good deed for the prince of the country with whom they were at war, no less, and he suffered for it. I found the second part of the book significantly less fascinating, but before I explain why, let’s start from the very beginning.

As the blurb tells you, two feuding countries are observing a truce in order to conduct memorial ceremony for their fallen during the war, when Ackley notices that one of his fellow mages is attempting to curse the prince from Morcia to death. Ackley thinks this is a very bad and underhanded idea and casts a counter-curse which goes awry for several reasons. The unintended side effect of the counter- curse is that Ackley and Morcian prince are forced to be bound together, with each able to feel pain if the other one feels pain, and unable to walk too far from each other without suffering pain. The prince obviously cannot be at the ceremony any longer, the truce is pretty much broken and Ackley is forced to accompany him, because he cannot not to. Of course the prince is convinced that Ackley had his own sinister intentions in getting bound to him, and I really was ready to kick prince for repaying for a kind deed by not trusting Ackley, but I definitely could see his point of view, and he realized that Ackley is to be trusted relatively fast.

At Morcia our heroes have to deal with the fight for Morcia’s throne – the prince’s father had been dying for months and the Council that rules with the monarch had not been particularly happy with the prince for many reasons. There is also the matter of several deadly attacks on their lives. Ackley and the prince need to unmask the killer, figure out how to break the curse, and then find a way to stop the war. I really liked this part of the book. The attacks were truly deadly, I was worried for both guys, I was not sure who was behind the attacks and I was basically glued to the pages.

I thought Ackley’s magical abilities were very well portrayed, as was his frustration, because there were more restrictions on use of magic against people (good or bad) in Morcia than in Skirfall and the problems that arose made sense to me. I thought Ackley’s constant refusal to bite his tongue when he was talking to the prince also made sense – he was worried for his life, for his magic, he was under constant stress and he was not a meek person. I like guys snapping at each other, but I do not want such bickering to make them look like idiots or kids, and I did not think that happened in this book.
And then suddenly the story came to a screeching halt for me. The villain was unmasked in the middle of the book, and I am still not sure if I was happy with the revelation. I mean, I liked that it was a person who was under suspicion almost from the beginning, because it is nice when the characters are not stupid, and mostly they were looking for evidence in the right places, but at the same time I was thinking he did all that? Really?

At 50-60% of the book I started to feel that the author was artificially prolonging the “we do not know how to break the curse” thing to keep the guys together and the book really seemed to lose some steam. And when the curse was actually broken, it happened in really anticlimactic way. This was not necessarily bad; in fact I think I liked it. I just think it should have happened earlier in the book and some things could have been cut out.

The romance is literally – “from enemies to lovers”, because they realize that they love each other toward the end of the book. I guess they do become friends gradually but they were never 100% friends before they realized that they were in love. I have no problem with that, in fact I love that, but avoid the book if you do not; they are antagonistic to each other for a much longer period of time than they are not.

The escapade our heroes conducted to stop the war between the two countries actually made me dislike Ackley somewhat – to keep the things ambiguous let’s just say that I thought he was way too pleased to do things to bring his country to their knees even if it did stop the war. But that’s my issue and not book’s issue; I suspect not that many will have that issue.

I also thought that the world-building was somewhat sketchy – not absent, but sketchy. Yes, the two countries were monarchies, yes they were now at war, and yes the use of magic was more restrictive in one of them than another. I also really loved that there were so many women in the top positions in Morcia. There were a couple of council members, whom I liked a lot and found very competent. There were many women in the military and one woman was shown to be in the top military position, and there was also a woman as one of the top physicians. I really liked these features, but besides what I’ve described I really cannot say that I know much about these two countries and the world in general.
And lastly, I buy a lot of books from “Less Than Three” press, because a lot of them are good fantasy stories with great characters, but I have to say that typos and missing words are present in books from this press on a very regular basis. This book sadly is no exception.

Grade : C.

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REVIEW:  Wingspan by Karis Walsh

REVIEW: Wingspan by Karis Walsh

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When architect Kendall Pearson finds an injured osprey on her property, she expects to simply drop it off at a local wild bird rehabilitation center and be done with it. Quick and painless, like every other relationship she has. But wildlife biologist Bailey Chase has other plans for Ken. First, as surgical assistant, and second, as the designer for her new raptor sanctuary.

Bailey protects her privacy with the vigilance of a hawk, hiding in her rescue center where she has complete control over her life and her work. Isolated on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, she’s surrounded by natural beauty and plenty of solitude. Until sexy Ken Pearson walks in with a wounded bird and Bailey finds her life has been invaded by more than just an extra beak to feed.

Sometimes pain is invisible, and only love can soar over protective barriers and heal a wounded heart.

Dear Ms. Walsh,

I’ve mentioned in several of my past book reviews that I enjoy reading about characters with different hobbies, jobs, or careers. Since I turn into a big, old softie when I read about wild animal rehab efforts, I immediately requested a copy of your book when I saw it on Netgalley.

Kendall – known throughout the book as Ken – and Bailey are each wounded souls who have closed themselves off from the world. They are so separated from others it’s almost as if they’re surrounded by a force field, a brick wall and a moat.

Ken has submerged herself into looking like everyone else, acting like everyone else and seeking out girlfriends and lovers who fit the profile of whom an upwardly mobile, young professional lesbian should be seen with. Never mind if she feels stifled – the order of the day is Thou Shalt Not Stand Out. Yet every once in a while her actual personality insists on rearing its head as when she can’t resist the vintage Vette or the lovely piece of undeveloped property way out in the country.

Bailey has known since childhood that the world views her as an oddball. Her parents volatile marriage drove her into the woods around their home where she discovered a kinship with birds that she finally turned into her life’s vocation after graduation from Vet School. The world is welcome to bring her injured birds but after that she prefers that it go the hell away and leave her to do what she loves and does better than most.

The way these two are brought together is both realistic as well as an organic utilization of their professions. Ken finds an injured osprey on her property and Bailey is the closest as well as best rehabber around. Bailey has reluctantly accepted funding from the WSU Vet School but that also entails a new annex being built on her land to allow for students as well as interns being sent to work with her. When architect Ken gets assigned to design the new flight cages and building, the two are thrown together.

Ken’s and Bailey’s solo and joint journeys back from their strict isolation is fairly obviously laid out and followed through. Though it felt real and was handled well, there were almost no surprises along the way. Point B followed point A which lead to point C even as I guessed what would happen when the story reached section D. But that’s not to say the story is boring or badly written as I enjoyed reading about the struggles behind successfully helping injured birds – but I’ll pass on feeding an owlet mouse bits no matter how cute he might look – and the bursts of genius behind inspired buildings which are more than a box.

Bailey and Ken are central to the self change of the other – and I do like that each woman reached her own decision to begin to alter her life and accept love into it rather than being driven to it. Bailey is a bit more open to it but there were times when I wanted to shake Ken out of her martyrdom. It was also a bit too easy that one or two major confrontation was all that stood between these two finally coming to grips with their years long issues. I did enjoy the book but I just wish the storyline wasn’t quite so easy to see coming. C+/B-

~Jayne

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